Why we oppose the 498 Co-Living redevelopment of City-Link House at East Croydon

One of Britain’s most wealthy families, the Westons, whose companies own Selfridges and Primark, are behind proposals to demolish the City Link House office buildings on Addiscombe Road and build a 28-storey building of 498 co-living units and 85 residential units.

Weston’s Wittington Investments, working with Fifth State, has submitted a planning application 21/02912/FUL to redevelop City Link House, 4 Addiscombe Road, Croydon CR0 5TT. Details of their proposals can be found on the Fifth State’s website, The future of City Link House. The website claims they deliver “a flexible new way of renting, combining private units with amazing shared spaces”.

The proposed rents of £810 a month (not including heating or amenity costs) are aimed at those on average incomes of around £34K, above the average Croydon income of £31K. Their stated aim is to attract Young Professionals, Downsizers, and Privacy Seekers. In reality, the applicants are offering an upmarket version of student halls of residence. However, this scheme is aimed at young professionals looking to take their first steps on the home-ownership ladder.

Sui-Generis Planning Application

Sui-Generis planning applications were described outside the norm and allowed applicants to avoid meeting current planning rules. Most of the 498 co-living units will be substantially smaller than the minimum space standards size of 37m2 set out in the Mayor of London’s planning document The London Plan, with an average unit size of 22m2. Residents will have access to communal facilities and spaces, but these units are not designed to encourage residents to put down roots in the Addiscombe or East Croydon community.

Planning Application Details

21/02912/FUL for Demolition of existing building and redevelopment of the site to provide a part 14 storey and part 28 storey building with basement, comprising 498 co-living units and associated communal amenity spaces (Use Class Sui Generis), 85 residential units (Use Class C3), commercial space (Use Class E) and flexible commercial and community space (Use Class E/F1) at ground/mezzanine level, together with roof terraces and balconies, wheelchair accessible parking spaces, refuse and cycle storage and associated landscaping and public realm works including removal of subways

Summary of Objections Reasons

1) Loss of a Key Employment Site and proposed application delivers inadequate levels of employment

2) Height of the building and impact on NLA Tower

3) Inadequate amount of affordable housing

4) Inadequate size of each co-living unit.

5) Street scene and failure to provide a cycling path around the building.

6) Privacy issues

7) Daylight and Sunlight issues on neighbouring properties

Our objections in detail

1) Loss of a Key Employment Site and the proposed application delivers inadequate levels of employment:

These applicants fail to make a case for losing a key employment site in the Croydon Opportunity Area. City-Link House is on the edge of the Office Retention area and within 100 metres of East Croydon Station. Croydon needs permanent jobs, and due to its proximity to East Croydon Station, this site can provide significant employment over and above what the applicant is offering. 

Croydon has lost most of its poor quality office stock. However, as Knight Frank stated in their March 2021 “The Intelligence Lab Report”  Croydon Office Market, there is a local demand for high-quality office development. “From a development perspective, Permitted Development has “cleaned” the market of secondary space and the right-sized office market is ripe for new delivery to capture local and decentralisation demand. First out of the blocks: 28 Dingwall Road (Mayfair Capital/V7) – prime pitch, great design and lots of terraces – rental expectations are heading towards, if not hitting, £40 per sq ft, in line with other suburban hubs like Wembley and Stratford. Why not?“.

Croydon is at risk of losing a valuable employment site. There are plenty of other sites for residential in the local area, but it is clear that Grade A Office developments have the best chance of attracting tenants if they are located close to East Croydon Station. Therefore, losing a key site next to East Croydon Station to residential will not help Croydon’s economic recovery.

2) Height of the building and visual impact on NLA Tower. 

This application will have a detrimental impact on the Croydon townscape. English Heritage may not list the NLA Tower (now known as Number One Croydon). Still, Croydon’s Local Plan recognises the iconic status of the NLA Tower and its place in Croydon’s cityscape, and this proposed building at 92 metres threatens all this, especially as it will loom over the 81m NLA Tower. The long-distance views from Park Hill will be particularly affected, as will views from East Croydon Station.  The view of the NLA Tower from the trains and the platforms at East Croydon is an iconic visual image that shows the one that is arriving in East Croydon and one that we should protect. If there is to be a tall building, the city link site of the proposed tower should be several floors lower than the NLA to protect the NLA Tower’s iconic status and visual dominance in the area.

3) Inadequate amount of affordable housing

The Financial Viability Assessment provided by the applicant states the Proposed Development scheme is providing above the maximum amount of planning obligations, including affordable housing. I would argue that the figures used by the developer are pessimistic in terms of rental income likely to be received by the developer.   Croydon should press for a higher level of affordable housing as the type of residential housing, Co-living, is a much more profitable form of rented housing per square metre than ordinary residential accommodation.  The figures provided in the financial viability underestimate the likely rental values per room, and the yield will be higher than predicted. at the very least, Croydon should agree to the approach set out in para 2.5 pf BPS Surveyors November 2020 Addendum: “Given the emerging nature of this use we consider that the scheme should be subject to an open book late-stage review of viability so that actual achieved values and costs can be relied on to assess the viability.

4) Inadequate size of each flat: student style accommodation.

In the age of Covid-19 and pandemics, do we want to provide student-style accommodation for single professionals that is only on average is only 22metres in size, effectively a room 7 metres by 3 metres? The rental markets that the developer is aiming at are for people in their late 20s and early 30s, who in previous generations would have become homeowners before they were thirty. The applicant state that this is a sui-generis application which means they don’t have to comply with the London Plan’s minimum accommodation size, but that doesn’t mean that Croydon has to accept the sizes offered. The Mayor Of London states that the development has to be of an exemplary standard. The overall design is commendable, but the size of flats fails means the development fails to deliver the high standards one should expect from a sui generis scheme.

5) Street scene and failure to provide a cycling path around the building.

The proposed public realm improvements listed below are inadequate for a scheme of this size and location. 

• Installation of new paving; 

• Closure of the unsightly subways to the north and west of the Site; 

• New areas of planting; 

• Introduction of landscaping at roof level.

Cycling is dangerous in this area. A cyclist was killed at the junction of Cherry Orchard Road and Addiscombe RoaThe Coroner criticised croydon Council and TFLner for failing to take cycle safety. The improvement works on Addiscombe Road, around the NLA Tower, are incomplete. There is no evidence in the report that the public realm proposals will provide a safe cycle route past this building and into Altyre Road. A safe and segregated cycle lane should be provided on Addiscombe Road frontage and should incorporate the section of the Addiscombe Road that is currently marked as a cycle lane. 

6) Privacy issues:

The applicant has not considered the privacy needs of the occupants of flats with balconies. Those flats with balconies have metal railings that fail to provide the occupiers with an adequate level of privacy.  Glass or iron railings do not provide the private space that residents crave for their balconies. This is a town centre site, and many occupiers of flats with balconies do not want others to look into their flats or on to their balconies. The developer should provide solid balcony panels or laser cut balconies panels. This is important for this site as office workers will be overlooking some of these units, and other tall buildings nearby will look in on the private amenity spaces. Not having glass balconies will also help keep service charges down, as cleaning glass balconies can be very expensive.

7) Daylight and Sunlight issues on neighbouring properties

The report admits there are daylight issues for some of the units within the building and a negative impact on some flats within neighbouring properties.  The applicants have asked the Council for flexibility, but they should be compelled to meet and exceed these standards as a new build scheme.